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18 May 2011, 9:00 am 8 Comments

Out in America: Redefining the Gay Lifestyle

Submission by Tom Goss, TNG contributor.

Tom Goss is a singer-songwriter based in Washington, DC. His songs and videos continue to capture the hearts and minds of the LGBT community and abroad. Tom is currently on a 10-week, 50 city national tour.  For more information visit www.tomgossmusic.com

Check his new column every Monday at 2 p.m.

Shannon Grady and my husband, Mike; c. Tom Goss

Almost daily people approach me after and show and tell me how refreshing the experience was and how much fun they had. Well it’s more than that.  Forgive my stumbling while I try to explain.

In my experience, gay men feel like they have to ascribe to some sort of pre-determined lifestyle.  This seems to be even more prevalent amongst folks that are older than me.  It’s more than sex.  It traverses all aspects of life.  It applies to our musical and artistic tastes, physical appearance and ideas of beauty, even where we should live, work or eat.  We talk a lot about being a supportive and uplifting community but we’re lying to ourselves if we don’t admit that there is a social hierarchy fueled by judgment and exclusivity. If there is one thing that defines what I hope to do with my music, it is my desire to create an experience that is creative, powerful and most importantly, inclusive.  There are few times in my career where I felt that come together more than in Seattle and Portland.

Food carts in Portland; c. Tom Goss

Every now and again things just fall into place.  Usually I’m on the road, driving and performing by myself.  It can get a little lonely.  However, as luck would have it, two of my favorite LGBT songwriters (Matt Alber & Shannon Grady) recently moved to Seattle.  On a whim I dropped them a line to see if they wanted to team up on a show.  Luckily all of our schedules matched up (which is a feat in and of itself) and we put together a show.

I’ve played with Matt and Shannon before.  I knew that these were going to be amazing shows.  I also know how rare something like this is. I wanted to soak it all in.  Two packed shows later, I was not disappointed.

Matt Alber and Tom Goss, c. Tom Goss

In Seattle we played a small theater with much less space then advertized.  With the show sold out, people arrived early to get in line and get a good seat.  Unfortunately there weren’t that many seats!  I was very nervous that people wouldn’t be able to relax enjoy the show.  What happened amazed me.  Instead of cramming in shoulder to shoulder, most folks found a place on the floor and sat quietly.  Cross-legged and in cuddle positions, people found a way to get comfortable.  After patiently waiting for 45 minutes, the show started.  Throughout the 90 minute show you could hear a pin drop in the crowd.  Nobody got up to use the restroom or get a drink, people sat patiently and quietly.  I wasn’t the only one who knew this was a rare experience, we were all soaking it in.

The Seattle show with folks hanging on the floor; c. Tom Goss

In Portland we were lucky to be hosted by their new LGBT community enter (The Q Center) and although we had more space, the result was the same.  It seems that after years of out songwriters touring and recording, gay men are finally beginning to recognize that there is music being written for them.  No, I’m not talking about Lady Gaga or Madonna.  Sadly, it’s music that will likely never reach a mass, general audience.  It’s music written from a gay perspective that aims to strike deeper and speak to our common hopes, fears and dreams.

I’m very excited for the future of gay music and I don’t think I’m alone.  I see those shows in Seattle and Portland as a taste of what’s to come.  As more and more people in the LGBT community discover the wide spectrum that makes up queer music, more people will realize that they are not alone in their search for something different.

The advent of the internet, and independent blogs like The New Gay, Towleroad and JoeMyGod, have made it possible for our community to start believing that as gay men we can be whatever we want.  We can ascribe to all, or none of the stereotypes that we are told, and still find our place in an accepting community.

Bacon maple doughnut. Yum! c. Tom Goss

That makes me happy.


Where to eat:  I’m a little obsessed with Kushibar in Seattle.  I mean, Japanese street food?  How can you beat that?  Make sure you get an order of the grilled green onions.  In Portland, check out the street carts, especially the pasta at Built To Grill, definitely worth having to stand.  Afterwards, hop on over to Voodoo Donuts for dessert.  Did someone say “Bacon Maple Donut?”  I hope so, I’ll have 2!

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  • Howard said:

    I hear you. When I was younger, it was damn hard to find music made for & by gay men. That it why I enjoy it so much now. And you & your music are a big part of that, Mr. Goss!

  • Tony said:

    It IS an amazing thing. I agree…
    and even more-so when the ARTIST can see it… the impact, I mean for so long we’ve had to sit and listen to gender unspecific music from male artists (gay or not) and it never hit the same chord when you couldn’t say, “he wrote that for him.”
    I’m loving the future of gay music… from you, and matt, and others. I love watching it unfold.

  • Randy said:

    Great post Tom. Cool to hear about the responses and people you’re getting as you tour.

    Love the music.

  • Cheri said:

    Tom you are such a voice, not just for the LGBT community, but a voice that teaches and speaks to everyone, turning heads, turning hearts and opening minds. Thank you. I am happy that your visit to Seattle was a memorable one…. I am still kicking myself for missing you…. but I have a good feeling you will be back soon! Safe travels always! xoxo

  • John/Beaverton said:

    Sorry I missed your show in Portland again. Was in Los Angeles tending to family affairs. Then I was back home by time you were in LA. Next time you’re in PDX, I will be there! Love the new album, downloaded from iTunes!

  • Aron said:

    I love reading your stories and experiences on the road, and the tips on the cool places and good eats to try!

  • Shani said:

    I always found it so crazy that the LGBT community has had to endure so many stereotypes, only to turn around and classify and exclude other LGBT people. Anyway, I LOVED the duet you did at Go Mama Go, it still stays with me. Maybe one day the concept of two men singing a love duet will seem common. Anywho, can’t wait to see you when you return to DC!

  • Jeremy Gloff said:

    Awesome Tom